According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, in the last 12 months, 24% of Americans have practiced yoga on their own (or with a video or app). Virtual yoga (e.g., online classes, apps, DVDs, TV programs, live streaming, etc.) offers a great alternative to traditional classes. You can practice any style of yoga, any time, in your pajamas. What could be better? Let’s explore some of the virtues of virtual yoga (and a few caveats).
Virtual yoga is convenient
Can’t leave your house because of parental/caregiver responsibilities? Frequent traveler? No yoga classes offered near you? Whether you’re at home or traveling, virtual yoga lets you get your Downward Dog time when and where you can. But practicing at home can be hard. I often find my best laid plans to get down to my mat get derailed by “one more thing I have to get done first.” I’m glad I make time for traditional classes. They’re like an appointment, which can help to establish a routine. And for some of us (Yes, I’m talking to you my fellow telecommuters), we need to get out of the house once and a while.
You can have it your way
One of my favorite things about virtual classes is the variety of styles and teachers. If you’re using a favorite yoga DVD, you might appreciate the familiar content. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to hit pause for a little more rest or rewind to do it again. You can invite your friends over to practice with you or go solo. If you’re the type of yogi who likes to stray from what the rest of the class is doing, virtual yoga gives you the freedom to explore. Some people may feel unwelcomed in a traditional class due to body type, gender, race, or uncomfortable in a crowded class with strangers. Virtual yoga can give people an opportunity to experience the benefits of yoga in a more relaxed setting.
However, too many choices can make finding the right class a challenge. Keep in mind that anyone can put a video online, so you might want to check the credentials of the virtual instructor. If you’re a beginner, it’s especially helpful to have an instructor who can see you and give you specific feedback or answer questions after class. Even if you’ve been practicing for a while, an instructor’s feedback can be invaluable in helping your progress in your practice or bringing your awareness to a bad habit that may have crept into your practice.
Virtual yoga is budget-friendly
Let’s be honest, yoga classes can be expensive. Monthly memberships, transportation, and parking can really add up. Virtual yoga classes can be a less expensive alternative. Just remember, you’ll have to supply your own props (mat, blocks, blankets, straps, bolsters) or improvise. Also, be sure that your space is safe and clear enough so that you won’t injure yourself as you move around. If you find you’re experiencing wrist pain when you perform asanas with weight on your hands (e.g., plank, Chatarunga, Downward Facing Dog, arm balances), it could be that you’ve got too much cushioning under your mat—like carpeting.
If you’re looking for less expensive traditional classes, some yoga studios offer free outdoor classes during the summer or year-round community classes that are free or discounted. Also look for classes in non-traditional spaces like community centers, churches, schools, parks, in instructors’ homes, etc.
Is virtual yoga better?
Despite all the benefits of virtual yoga, I think it works better as a supplement to traditional yoga classes rather than a replacement. Whether you’re in a traditional or virtual class, always be mindful of your body. Rest when you need to. If a pose feels unsafe or you’re unsure of how to do it, you can always skip it. Although yoga is a personal practice, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people and make new friends. So, you can enjoy your yoga videos, but roll out your mat in a real live class too.